Lori Colbo loves to write about her Christian faith and the Bible to encourage and inspire others.
"If you want to see how popular the church is, attend Sunday morning worship. If you want to see how popular the pastor is, attend Sunday evening. If you want to see how popular God is, attend the prayer meeting."
— Armin Gesswein, Everything by Prayer, Fred Hartley, page 123
The church bulletin
Following is a look at a typical church bulletin we read every Sunday morning or in the church newsletter. I start with this to show where the hearts and minds of the church are often focused on.
Welcome to Average American Church. Here are the upcoming events for this month:
This week in church:
Potluck - Sunday after church we will be having a potluck. Come out for a great time of food and fellowship. Bring a side dish or dessert. Hot dogs and hamburgers will be provided. All are welcome.
Youth Group - Tuesday evenings at 6 pm. Games, food, and the word.
Before the Throne Intercessory Prayer Meeting - Wednesday night at 5:30 to 6 pm. We will be praying for our church, one another, our loved ones, and the community. "Let us come boldly before the throne..."
Midweek Bible Study - Wednesday nights from 6 - 7 pm. We will be studying the book of Acts. Join us as we follow the adventures of the Apostles as they turn the world upside down.
Children's ministry - Wednesday evenings at 6 pm. Games, food, the word, memory verses.
Men's breakfast - Saturday morning at 7 am the men will meet at the Main Street Cafe on Main street for a time of food, fellowship, and inspiration.
Women's Bible Study - Thursday mornings at 9 am. We are currently studying Proverbs 31. Goodies and coffee provided.
Special events this month:
March 10th Volunteer meeting - Immediately following church there is a volunteer children and youth workers meeting. A hot lunch will be provided.
March 15th - Worship Fest - It's almost here. The third annual Worship Fest will be in town at the convention center. Contemporary Christian music's most popular worship leaders and bands will be featured in a worship extravaganza. Tickets are $25.
March 25th - 27th Franklin Graham Crusade - Evangelist Franklin Graham will be in our city to preach the gospel. They are looking for volunteers from the local churches to help with greeting, ushering, follow-up and prayer team. Sign-up sheets are in the narthex.
March 29th Feed homeless downtown - We will be handing out lunches to the homeless downtown. All are welcome. We will meet at the church at 5pm. Dress warm.
Which of these activities get the most attention and brings people the most joy? I do not condemn all of these. They are all important to the life of the church. In fact, much of them are crucial to the body - Bible study, serving God, ministering to our youth, etc.
Which of these is the most well attended in your church
What does your flock flock to?
Excuses for not participating in prayer meetings
I think we can all agree that the prayer meeting is the least attended meeting in churches today. People will go to the ends of the earth for a potluck or a concert, but not a prayer meeting. Why is corporate prayer so neglected and rejected in the church? Why the lackluster attitude on prayer? Here are some reasons I have heard, followed by a response. See if you can relate:
Prayer meetings are long and boring. If we consider prayer as boring, it is indicative that our view of God and the reason we pray is gravely amiss. God is glorious, not humdrum. If we are bored and keeping a stopwatch, our hearts are humdrum, not God or prayer. Boredom requires repentance and revival in our hearts and church.
We don't have time what with other life and church demands. God always has time for you. If we neglect prayer, we will not glorify Him and the ministry of the church will not be empowered by the Holy Spirit.
We prefer doing the work of the church that is more visible and hands on. Being the hands and feet of Jesus. The work will be effective and powerful if we seek his guidance and power. If we serve without prayer we are not His hands and feet, but our own.
We are not to pray as the Pharisees by praying for men to see and take notice. We are not being Pharisees by meeting together to pray. The Pharisees stood out on the street corners and in the town squares and market places praying at the top of their voices to be looked upon as holy by men. They were not conducting a sacred assembly or small group intercession, with humble hearts. They were not praying in God's will or by His Spirit. They were not praying to God, they were exalting themselves for glory.
We are to pray alone in our prayer closet. Yes we are. But to argue that only praying alone is acceptable is conveniently editing out or ignorantly missing that God also calls us to pray together. Imagine if the 120 in the upper room on the day of Pentecost had not been praying together. The three thousand that were saved that day would not have been saved. Guess where they would be?
We can pray at home. There was a pastor who said this when someone brought up the fact in a Bible study one day that no one was coming to prayer meetings. When he announced the prayer meeting from the pulpit, he gave the when and where - and then said he realized, "Many of you are tired from commutes or other things, so if you can't make it out, no need to worry as you can pray at home." I believe this minister was trying to prevent guilt on people for staying home. People who say, "Well, we can pray at home," seldom pray at home. All you have to do is ask them and they are quite open or they will tell you they said a prayer. God has called us to pray together as well as in our prayer closets. Our ministry and our lives are directed and empowered by God when we pray and invite God to move in our midst.
If the church is not meeting to pray, the work being done in the flesh will not last or bear lasting fruit. J.B. Johnston said "As prayer meetings fail in a congregation, so will the ministrations of the pastor become unfruitful, the preaching of the word fail to convert sinners and promote holiness in the professors of religion."
The boiler room
The story is told of five young college students who were spending a Sunday in London, so they went to hear the famed C. H. Spurgeon preach. While waiting for the doors to open, the students were greeted by a man who asked, “Gentlemen, let me show you around. Would you like to see the boiler room of this church?” They were not particularly interested, for it was a hot day in July. But they didn’t want to offend the stranger, so they consented. The young men were taken down a stairway, a door was quietly opened, and their guide whispered, “This is our boiler room.” Surprised, the students saw 700 people bowed in prayer, seeking a blessing on the service that was soon to begin in the auditorium above. Softly closing the door, the gentleman then introduced himself. It was none other than Charles Spurgeon.
Charles Spurgeon had a vibrant and powerful ministry. Every week he preached to over 10,000 parishioners. Many, many came to Christ, and many saints grew in holiness and effective service. It would not have happened with out the saints in the boiler room. Spurgeon said this,
"The condition of the church may be very accurately gauged by its prayer meetings. So the prayer meeting is a grace-ometer, and from it we may judge of the amount of divine working among a people. If God be near a church, it must pray. And if He be not there, one of die first tokens of His absence will be a slothfulness in prayer!"
Once Spurgeon was asked what he felt was the reason for such a powerful ministry. His answer was, "My people pray for me." He was absolutely right.
Spurgeon again on prayer meetings
Above we have the boiler room story of Charles Spurgeon's parishioners praying for him. And yet, in his sermon, Spiritual Revival, the Want of the Church he says the following:
"Look at our prayer-meetings, with here and there a bright exception. Go in. There are six women; scarcely ever enough members come to pray four times. Look at them. Prayer-meetings they are called; spare meetings they ought to be called, for sparely enough they are attended."
Perhaps he was talking about churches in general at that time, but it's true for today.
Prayer meetings the arteries of the early church
D.A. Carson said, "Prayer meetings were the arteries of the early church. Through them, life-sustaining power was derived." Don't you love the word arteries? Arteries are channels through which blood (life and power) flows throughout the body and pumped through the heart. Corporate prayer is where the power flowed for the first church. With the Holy Spirit empowering them to evangelize the world and plant churches, the Jews accused the Christians of turning the world upside down (Acts 17:6). What a compliment! What evidence that prayer was being answered. Through the book of Acts we read about prayer meetings.
Acts 1:12-26 - They prayed in the upper room and chose the twelfth disciple to replace Judas.
Acts 2: 1-39 is the account of the day of Pentecost where the Holy Spirit came down resulting in three thousand souls being saved.
Acts 2:42 tells us that they met together continuously to pray, fellowship, breaking of bread (1st century potluck no doubt), and doctrine.
Acts 4:24 they got together raised their voices to God when they heard Peter and John's arrest and persecution.
Acts 6:4 The apostles state they would devote themselves to the word and to prayer. This was after assigning a godly group of believer to organize the distribution of food.
Acts 6:6-7 They laid hands on the men they chose and the word of God spread and multitudes came to the Lord.
Acts 8:14-17 Peter and John prayed that the new Samaritan believers would receive the Holy Spirit and they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
Acts 12:12 The disciples were praying for Peter because he was imprisoned. It happened that Peter was miraculously released by an angel.
Acts 13:3 The church at Antioch fasted and prayed and laid hands on a group of men who were being sent out, two being Saul and Barnabas.
Prayer meetings are the arteries of the early church
The purpose of prayer meetings
"Prayer, then, is cooperating with God to bring about His plan, not trying to bend Him to our will." ~ S. Michael Houdman
The central reason we gather together to pray is to seek God's will and direction for the church and anything else the Lord lays on our hearts. The quote above reminds us that in corporate prayer we are not to seek or direct God to what we want, but what He desires. Praying for and according to God's will is the only way He answers. We dumb sheep in the flock (and we do it as individuals as well) get it into our heads that we need x, y, and z to make the church more successful and happy. We are sure it will take a, b, and c, to solve this or that problem. So we join hands and tell God what we need, tag his name on the end as a seal of approval, and wonder when He doesn't give it to us. Sometimes, there is a specific need that we know is God's will and we pray and God delivers. But we must be careful not to meet to force God's hand to do what we want. Waiting upon the Lord is an integral part of praying in His name and according to His will.
The second reason we are to pray in prayer meetings is to intercede for the saints, the church, the community, the country and the world. We can indeed intercede at home, but interceding corporately is a blessing from God. The disciples and apostles did this regularly. When Peter was imprisoned, the disciples back home were praying for him fervently. In this case, God delivered Peter. Who knows how it would have gone had they not prayed.
Bill Kovacic (Lifegate), another hubpages writer, wrote an article , Ten Hindrances to Prayer Part 1, (I highly recommend you read it) and talked at length about prayer meetings that look more like a Sunday worship service than a prayer meeting. Music, message, and ten or 15 minutes of prayer. I won't elaborate because he said it so well.
I have participated in hundreds of prayer meetings over the years, as well as facilitated many, and have found some things that work and don't work.
Enter into His gates with Thanksgiving and praise - this should be our established attitude as we enter into his presence. Barraging the Lord with requests from the get go is rather selfish. An attitude of gratitude and giving or even singing our praises to God opens the floodgates.
Keep the corporate agenda loose - Sometimes a prayer meeting is brought together to pray for a certain issue or concern. Let's say you are meeting to pray for the persecuted church or a particular person who is being persecuted. The facilitator or other members may have a Scripture to read and then everyone is asked to pray along the lines of the Scripture. I have done this many times I think it is a good way to go if the meeting is for a specific topic. But we should hold it loosely in that the Spirit may start directing people in another vein as the prayers are going on. He may reveal to one that there is this or that thing to consider. He may want us to focus more on one aspect than another. Rigidity does not allow for the Spirit to move. It's all about praying God's will.
Allow the Holy Spirit to lead - Invite the Holy Spirit go be present and guide the prayers and the focus. Be discerning between personal agenda and the Lord laying something on your heart. Sometimes strong personalities try to dominate or have an agenda.
Time of the prayer meeting - Many prayer meetings have a time allotment - an hour or two. Prayer does not have to be long to be effective, but sometimes the Spirit has much to say and direct people in their prayers. To stop a prayer meeting right when the Spirit seems to be moving powerfully stifles and grieves the Spirit, and we miss the blessing. It's sometimes tempting to rush the prayer meeting as the set time draws near. Some people need to leave at the set time for practical reasons. It's good to tell people in the beginning that if they they need to leave to do so quietly. We need to be understanding.
Avoid rabbit trails - If you are meeting to seek God's will on finding a new pastor, don't pray about abortion.
Allow the holy hush - Often times a prayer meeting will be praying along and then everything recedes into silence. This does not necessarily mean God has left the building. It is a "holy hush." This is a listening time. This is where we often hear that still small voice. Some people find such quiet moments uncomfortable so they continue filling up that quiet space. I have experienced God's presence and direction more powerfully during a holy hush on many an occasion than when everyone was praying aloud.
Talk to the Lord alone - I cringe, recoil, when someone in the group is praying to the Lord then suddenly starts railing at Satan all in one sentence. "Lord Jesus, we love you, we worship you, we thank you for Your blood, and Satan, we bind you and take authority over you in Jesus name. Take your hands off any here in this prayer meeting, you are not welcome. And so now Lord we lift our hands and call upon you, blah blah." People think this is a biblical practice and it is not. We don't need to do it for preventative measures either.
I was in a class recently. We learned some important things about God and how He works in our life. At the end the leader asked us to stand and repeat a prayer of confession, repentance and thanksgiving to God for being our healer and deliverer. After the amen he then asked us to repeat a dialogue to Satan telling Him he has no authority and so on. I didn't participate. Why do people think it's necessary to pray to the devil when they've just prayed to the Lord who is all sufficient?
Silence your cellphones - This is a no brainer but it can and has happened to almost everyone in a variety of settings. It's a good idea for the leader to remind people to silence their phones. I suggest turning off phones completely because vibration is just as disrupting, not only because of the noise, but because the person stops and checks their phone to see who's calling. I remember being in a Spirit filled prayer meeting and someone's phone went off. She immediately got up when it rang and left the room, but was talking the whole way. We could hear her talking even when she stepped out because the hallway was rather cavernous. It totally disrupted the Spirit.
Hooray, we get to pray
We in the household of faith have the tendency to say in dire situations "All we can do is pray." That sounds like Eyeore theology to me. In Christ we need not be a glum lot. We need to say when things get difficult or even hopeless "We need to pray," or "Let's go to prayer," or "Let's not despair, we can pray." Prayer should never be relegated to the last resort. It should be the first thing we do. And if things get tougher, we get to pray again. Prayer is a divine privilege and a divine responsibility. I love Joseph Scriven's words in his hymn, What a Friend We Have in Jesus -
"What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.
Oh what peace we often forfeit, Oh what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer."
God has called His people to pray always, everywhere, without ceasing, in our prayer closet and in the upper rooms with the saints. It is our highest and greatest calling.
We get to pray to the Lord of all creation, we must pray, we are commanded to pray. Hooray we get to pray, so lets start praying.
Prayer-meetings they are called; spare meetings they ought to be called, for sparely enough they are attended."
— Charles H Spurgeon
© 2013 Lori Colbo
Kiss andTales on January 19, 2015:
You are so right! People have gotten away from the healthful teachings of being thankful for what we do have. People take things for granted ,what they seem to forget unless the Heavenly Father allows the food to grow we would have no food! And we need the sun and rain to produce growth ,what if this stopped ?
Reference Bible Mt 5:45 that YOU may prove yourselves sons ofYOUR Father who is in the heavens, since he makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous.
Almighty Father is very patient and merciful , we can always say thank you everyday or when it is appropriate .
Al Wordlaw from Chicago on January 19, 2015:
To pray is the most beautiful priviledge of every day to do. It helps to keep us spiritually grounded and focused on Godliness. Recently, I met with a group of 5 buddies for lunch. When I got to the table with my tray of food, they were already eating so, I bowed my head and said grace to myself regardless if anyone had said grace or not. We must always cover ourselves prayerfully. God comes first in all situations.
Kiss andTales on January 19, 2015:
Prayer is another way to say You are talking to the highest supreme being of the entire Universe. Jesus gave an outline into how to cover the important issues of prayer.
Jesus gave us an example of what the prayer should cover,
What was his outline
Reference Bible Mt 6:9 “YOU must pray, then, this way: “‘Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. . (Reference Bible Ps 83:18 That people may know that you, whose name is Jehovah, You alone are the Most High over all the earth) (Reference Bible Isa 43:11 I—I am Jehovah, and besides me there is no savior.” ) Reference Bible Ro 10:13 For “everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.”
Reference Bible Mt 6:10 Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.
Notice the first two models are concern with The Fathers name! His will that the earth will be heavenly!
As an example if a teacher was to give us a model test of a final exam ,would she give us the actual final exam ?
The model was a preview of what the exam would be like.
So was the Lord's Prayer should not sound exactly word by word. But from the heart spoken in your own words.
Notice what Jesus said !Reference Bible Mt 6:7 But when praying, do not say the same things over and over again, just as the people of the nations do, for they imagine they will get a hearing for their use of many words.
Prayer is just another word that means talking to the most high supreme Father of the Universe. We all ways want to keep this respectful with Reverence .
My point of reply is that people really have lost the true way to communicate with the Heavenly Father ,and even when they do. They do it with selfish motives, not considering that he has something also important that is happening ,mainly that satan has called him a liar !
And that he has been challenge that he does not have the right to rule over his own creations,
That is why the Heavenly Father has not interfered in the matters of earths situations
Because Satan is the ruler of this system.(Reference Bible Joh 12:31 Now there is a judging of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. )
That prayer Jesus gave was inline with it ,because he says let your name be sanctified
Meaning let your name be cleared of all injustice ,verbally and physically .
People are blaming him for all the wrong that satan has done even through religion ,
But soon people will all know the truth !
Reference Bible Eze 39:7 And my holy name I shall make known in the midst of my people Israel, and I shall no more let my holy name be profaned; and the nations will have to know that I am Jehovah, the Holy One in Israel.’
Dianna Mendez on March 15, 2014:
Your list of where to pray and how to avoid distractions is wonderful. I know that I could use a lot more individual prayer time at home. As the old saying goes, it does change things. I like your reference to prayer as the arteries of the church. Praying corporately is so important to changing our society and beyond. Thank you for the reminder of how prayer works. Blessings!
Tamarajo on January 04, 2014:
Your opening quote about the popularity of the church, the pastor and God is so telling. Prayer meetings are the least attended activity, sadly. "without Him we can do nothing" The bulletin says it all with the mention of a prayer meeting surrounded by a whole lot of activities.
I went on mini mission with another gal from our church to an Iowa town that had been flooded. There was another team from another state and church. I asked a couple of gals who were from the other bunch if they would pray for me. They got fidgety and uncomfortable and stated that they weren't very comfortable with praying for people. I was a bit taken aback to say the least.
I really enjoyed the story of Spurgeons boiler room. Our church does have a corporate prayer meeting before church begins down in the most remote room of the basement and I have often thought of it in that very same way.
My favorite suggestion for prayer meetings..."Quit talking to satan while you are talking to God" you so well addressed this problem and the biblical examples that support prayer being about petitioning and partnering with God and letting Him deal with the devil.
A blessed read and teaching. Inspiration for more corporate prayer.
Lori Colbo (author) from United States on November 27, 2013:
Jackie, I see the whole food thing mostly in small churches. And Lord have mercy, I have seen enough coffee wars to last me a lifetime. It is not wrong to have lots of food at church but if it takes precedence over the word and prayer and outreach something is wrong. Thanks for stopping by dear. Happy thanksgiving.
Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on November 27, 2013:
Honestly I guess it is how it has always been and in the south where I am from, food is a big part of people's lives but I so agree it seems to have taken over some of the churches and well churches have dinner's and breakfasts that anyone is welcome to and maybe the reasoning for this is to bring in more members by selling them food, (for these are not free meals) I don't know but it does seem the word is getting lost in the food. It is sort of a shake your head but never get the answer thing. And if you bring up there might be too much picnicking going on you better watch out for stones. lol and I am not kidding.
You made some great, great points.
Lori Colbo (author) from United States on November 26, 2013:
Thank you for the visit MsDora. I am glad you found the Acts verses helpful. Have a blessed Thanksgiving.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on November 26, 2013:
SuperHub all the way from the beginning quote to the end. Those boiler room prayer sessions can have great results, if we subscribe to them again. Thank you for the scriptures on prayer meetings in Acts.
Lori Colbo (author) from United States on November 25, 2013:
Hello North Wind. I have read E.M. Bounds. He is wonderful. I have just recently discovered Ravenhill but not on prayer. Will follow up on that. Thanks for stopping by.
North Wind from The World (for now) on November 25, 2013:
I wonder, have you ever read any of E.M. Bounds books or perhaps listened to Leonard Ravenhill talk about prayer? Prayer is the way to become strong in the Lord and that is why the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. It is a powerful thing when it is done in truth (Psalm 145) and the Lord delights in the prayers of His people.
Faith Reaper from southern USA on November 24, 2013:
Really awesome hub of truth here dear sister! Yes, we as the Body of Christ, have that direct line straight to the Father through the Son, and when two or more are gathered in His Name, there He is also! Prayer just always come first and not an afterthought for sure. Super write. What you have pointed out here of the regular schedule of what happens in churches is so very true, and really should be changed for obvious reasons!
Up and more and sharing
Amen! God bless you. In His Love, Faith Reaper
William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on November 24, 2013:
Boy! You nailed that one. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves, but for the most part we aren't. We ought to be more excited about meeting with the God of the Universe than anything else in the world, but again, for the most part we aren't. Then again you give some very practical tips on necessary corporate prayer. Thanks for sounding the trumpet along with encouragement to keep at it and how to keep at it! Up - up - up - up.
PS. Great video as well!